Women with breast cancer and undergoing radiation therapy experienced improved immune-system function, and lowered heart rate and systolic blood pressure after a single light-pressure effleurage massage session.

In this prospective, randomized and controlled study, 30 women, aged 50 to 75 years and patients at a hospital in Sweden, were allocated to either receive massage or a control visit where they were given an equal amount of attention, according to an abstract published on www.pubmed.gov.

Blood samples, saliva, notation of heart rate and blood pressure were collected before and after the massage/control visit. Results showed light-pressure effleurage massage decreased the deterioration of NK cell activity occurring during radiation therapy. Such cells are a component of the immune system. The massage also lowered heart rate and systolic blood pressure. No effects were demonstrated on cortisol and diastolic pressure, the researchers noted.

“A single full-body light pressure effleurage massage has a short-term effect on peripheral blood natural killer (NK) cell activity, systolic blood pressure and heart rate in patients with breast cancer,” the researchers noted. “However, the long-term clinical importance of these findings needs to be further investigated.”

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